It’s easy to confuse the concepts of virtual reality and a computerized model of reality (simulation). The former is an independent universe, full of its “laws of physics” and “logic”. It can match the real world or not. It can be consistent or not. It can respond to the real world or not. In short, it’s an arbitrary environment. In contrast, a model of reality must have a direct and strong relationship with the world. It must comply with the rules of physics and logic. The absence of such a relationship makes it senseless. A flight simulator is not very good in a world without airplanes or if it ignores the laws of nature. A technical analysis program is useless without a stock exchange or if it is mathematically incorrect.
However, the two concepts are often confused because they are both mediated by and on computers. The computer is an independent (though not closed) universe. It contains the hardware, data and instructions for manipulation of the data (software). It is by definition a virtual reality. It is versatile and can match reality with the world. But it can also withstand it. It is the ominous “what as” in artificial intelligence (AI). What if a computer would refuse to correlate its internal (virtual) reality with the reality of its creators? What if it had to place its own reality on us and make it the privileged one?
In the visually seductive film, The Matrix, a breed of AI computers takes over the world. It harvests human embryos in laboratories called “fields”. They then feed them through dirt-seeking tubes and immerse them in gelatinized liquid in cocoons. This new “mask species” obtains its energy needs from the electricity produced by the billions of human bodies thus preserved. A sophisticated, comprehensive computer program called “The Matrix” generates a “world” inhabited by the awareness of the unfortunate human batteries. They see themselves in their shell, walk, talk, work and make love. It is a tangible and olfactory fantasy created by the Matrix. His computer power is fascinating. It generates the smallest details and reams of data in a spectacular successful attempt to maintain the illusion.
A group of human failures succeed in learning the mystery of the Matrix. They form an underground and live aboard a ship, and communicate loop with a halcyon city called “Sion”, the last bastion of resistance. In one of the screens, Cypher, one of the rebels. Over a glass (illusory) rubic wine and (spectral) juicy steak, he is the biggest dilemma of the movie. Is it better to live happily in a completely detailed disorder – or to survive unfortunately, but free from its grip?
The Matrix controls the minds of all the people in the world. It is a bridge between them, interconnected. It allows them to share the same attractions, smells and textures. They remember. They compete. They make decisions. The Matrix is sufficiently complex to provide for this apparent lack of determinism and ubiquity of free will. The root question is: Is there any difference between decisions and certainty to make it (without making it)? If one is not aware of the existence of the Matrix, the answer is no. Inside, as part of the Matrix, make decisions and seem to make it are identical states. Only an outside observer – one in possession of complete information regarding both the matrix and man – can tell the difference.
Furthermore, if the Matrix was a computer program of infinite complexity, no observer (ending or infinite) could say with certainty who the decision was – the Matrix or human being. And because the Matrix is infinite for all purposes compared with the mind of a single tube-feeding individual – it’s safe to say that the states make a decision and “make a decision” is subjective indistinguishable. No individual within the Matrix will be able to tell the difference. His or her life seems to him or herself as ours is for us. The matrix may be deterministic – but this determinism is inaccessible to individual thoughts due to complicated involvement. If there were confronted with a trillion of deterministic roads, one would feel justified that he had free, unlimited will to choose one of them. Free will and determinism are indistinguishable on a certain level of complexity.
Nevertheless, we know that the Matrix is different from our world. It is NOT the same. This is an intuitive kind of knowledge, but it does not detract from its firmness. If there is no subjective difference between the Matrix and our Universe, there must be an objective one. Another important sentence is expressed by Morpheus, the leader of the rebels. He tells the elect (the Messiah) that it really is the year 2199, although the Matrix gives the impression that it is 1999.
This is where the matrix and reality deviate. Although a person who experiences both will find them indistinguishable – objectively they are different. In one of them (the Matrix), people have no objective TIME (although the Matrix may have). The other (reality) is controlled by it.
Under the spelling of the Matrix people feel as if time passes. They have functional clocks. The sun rises and sits. Seasons change. They grow old and die. It is not entirely an illusion. Their bodies decay and die, as ours does. They are not exempt from the laws of nature. But their awareness of time is computer generated. The Matrix is sufficiently sophisticated and capable of maintaining a close connection between the physical condition of man (his health and age) and his consciousness over time. The basic rules of time – for example its asymmetry – are part of the program.
But that’s exactly it. Time in the minds of these people has been programmed, not reality-induced. It is not the derivative of change and irreversible (thermodynamic and other) processes out there. Their thoughts are part of a computer program and the computer program is part of their minds. Their bodies are static, degenerated in their protective nests. Nothing happens to them except in their minds. They have no physical effect on the world. They do not affect any change. These things divide the matrix and reality apart.
To qualify as reality, a two-way interaction must take place. A flow of data is when reality influences people’s thoughts (like the Matrix). The opposite but equally essential type of data flow is when people know and influence the reality. The Matrix leads to a time-consuming ability in humans in the same way that the Universe causes us a time-consuming power. Something happens outside and it is called the Matrix. In this sense, the Matrix is actually, it is the reality of these people. It retains the requirement of the first type of data flow. But it fails the second test: people do not know that it exists, or any of its attributes, and it does not become irreversible either. They do not change the Matrix. Paradoxically, the rebels influence the Matrix (they almost destroy it). By doing that, they really do it. It is their truth because they know it and they change it irreversibly.
The application of this dual-track test, “virtual” reality, is a reality, although at this stage it is of a deterministic type. It affects our minds, we know it exists and we influence it in return. Our choices and actions change the state of the system irreversibly. This changed state again influences our minds. This interaction is what we call “reality”. With the advent of stochastic and quantum virtual reality generators – the distinction between “real” and “virtual” will fade away. The matrix is therefore not impossible. But it’s possible – do not really do it.
Attachment – God and Gdel
The second movie in the Matrix series – The Matrix Reloaded – culminates in a meeting between Neo (“The One”) and the Architect of the Matrix (a thin darkened God, white beard and all ). The architect explains that he is the sixth reincarnation of the One, and that Zion, a shelter for those disconnected from the Matrix, has previously been destroyed and about to be demolished again.
The architect continues to reveal that his efforts to make the Matrix “harmonious” (perfect) fail. He was thus forced to represent an element of intuition in the equations to reflect the unpredictability and grotesqueries of human nature. This built-in error tends to accumulate over time and threaten the existence of the Matrix – so the need to periodically eradicate Zion, the seat of malcontents and rebels.
God seems unaware of the work of an important but eccentric, Czech-Austrian mathematician, Kurt Gdel (1906-1978). A passing knowledge of his two statements will save the architect a lot of time.
Gdel’s First Completion proposes that each consistent axiomatic logic system, which is sufficient to express arithmetic, contains true, unbiased sentences. In certain cases (when the system is omega-consistent), both evaluated sentences and their negatives are unsatisfactory. The system is consistent and true – but not “complete” because not all of its sentences can be declared true or false by either being proved or by refusing.
The second imperialization is even more widespread. It says that no consistent formal logic system can prove its own consistency. The system can be complete – but then we can not show its consistency with the help of its axes and inferences.
In other words, a computer system such as the Matrix can either be complete and inconsistent – or consistent and incomplete. By trying to establish a system that is complete and consistent, God has run the statement of Gdel’s statement and possibly made the third successor, “Matrix Revolutions”.